997: Tiptronic to manual
Want to convert your Tiptronic 997 into a glorious, three-pedalled manual? Total 911 reader Oliver Plogmann shows you how…
A Total 911 reader has successfully converted his 997.1 Carrera to three pedals. Here his secrets are revealed
“I’ve been a Porsche fan for almost 30 years,” says Oliver Plogmann, Total 911 reader and past owner of several Neunelfers. “I had aircooled cars from a 1970 2.2T all the way to a 1997 993 Carrera, and more recently a watercooled 997.” Originally from Germany, Porsche’s home territory is where Plogmann owned most of his cars before relocating to Singapore a few years back.
For a car enthusiast, Singapore throws up one or two problems: “The downside here is the speed limit, and the fact that the car market is tiny compared to Europe or North America. The local regulations also prohibit the import of used cars over three years of age, apart from the classic car scheme for cars over an age of 35 years with limited use of only 45 days a calendar year,” he says.
Most cars are exported or scrapped after ten years of use due to the regulations of the ‘Certificate of Entitlement’, which is a ten-year license tagged to the car for permitted use. Plogmann reckons this helps the government control the amount of cars on the roads and ensures that most of the cars, being new, have low-emission standards. “It’s a great place to live, but not really the best place for a car nut,” he says.
Mr Plogmann’s location and the automotive restraints which come with it are precisely what lead to his undertaking of a drastic project on his
997.1 Carrera 4S. He takes up the story: “As Walter Röhrl said in his Total 911 interview earlier this year, ‘All my cars have manual gearboxes.’ I’m the same. I like my Porsche cars with manual transmission. Certainly, the newer PDKS are fantastic, technically advanced and faster than a stick shift, but manual shifting and three pedals is more engaging for me on B-roads and on track. I feel more connected to the car, even if it is a few seconds slower on the lap time. I also think the early automatic transmissions with only four (964 and 993) or five gears (996 and 997) with long gear ratios and shifting times do not do the car justice unless you drive it in heavy city traffic every day. For most owners this is actually the case here in Singapore and the reason why many made a compromise to choose the automatic gearbox over the manual option.”
There are simply very few manual cars around, with the exception of a few GT cars which command a significant premium over other Porsche models, which themselves come with price tags two- to three-times higher than Europe, this the result of state taxes, additional registration fees and the COE. Plogmann reckons this, plus the fact the 997.1 is now over ten years old, means there are only a handful of manual 997.1 Carrera iterations left in the city state. “When I say a handful, I literally mean five cars,” he says. “Importing used cars of that age is simply prohibited, so your only options are paying a significant premium to get one of the few manual cars – if one is for sale at all – live with the automatic transmission, or try out a conversion.”
For our charismatic German, that last option was the option of choice. “After a long search for a suitable 997 and on a budget, I ended up with a lowmileage, unmolested 2006 997.1 C4S Tiptronic with a renewed COE, so I took the plunge to try to convert my ‘Tip’ to a manual,” he says.
We are grateful that our loyal Total 911 reader is happy to share his experiences with this complicated procedure, and so we let him take up the story from here: “The swap can probably be done in a few days, provided you have everything together and know what you are doing. All parts are pretty much ‘plug and play’ thanks to the smart production planning by Porsche. There are no invasive procedures or alterations to the chassis or mounting points necessary. So, if you really want to do it, you can always convert it back for originality. The biggest effort went into research, study of wire diagrams, talking to experts and sourcing and importing all the necessary parts. And all this just to find out I was still missing a wire or a screw when I had put the car up on the ramp!
“I started the search for parts at the end of last year and got the transmission and pedal box for a right-hand-drive car, plus some other small and harder-to-find things from a used Porsche parts dealer in Belgium. I managed to look at everything on one of my trips to Europe. Filip from FG Porsche can always help out and he is a great resource. I decided to order most of the other things new to ensure quality. To know what parts you need it is best to download the Porsche PET parts catalogue from the official website and search for the option codes I249tiptronic and I480-6-spd-transmission to see the differences; also look out for I099-right-hand-drive and I098-left-hand-drive depending on what side you have your steering wheel.
“Depending on where you get your parts from and how much you buy used over new, the cost is actually not that high. Due to the high production numbers of the 997 there are plenty of used parts around as well. The big-ticket items are the transmission itself, the driveshafts, a new flywheel
and clutch and the instrument cluster, if you replace it like I did. Overall for me the costs were somewhere around €8,000 for all the hardware, which I think is reasonable for our market given that a used car is somewhere north of €100,000 – this is the starting price for the cheapest cars older than ten years!
“The things I wasn’t sure about were the electronics and wiring. From the diagrams I could see there isn’t that much difference between both cars, apart from the fact that the Tip cars have this extra harness for the Tiptronic Control Unit (TCU) and the automatic transmission itself. But I was not sure if there was more to it before I got started. It turned out that the wiring was actually not a big problem at all. Once you remove the TCU and the fuses you can even leave the additional harness in the car if you would want to have the option to revert it back one day. You can also remove it, which involves a bit more interior removal and effort, but saves some weight.
“The main differences are the wires for the clutch pedal switch, the wires for the reverse switch – which are taken from the shifter on the Tip, while they are taken from the transmission on the manual cars – and the main power cable for the starter. This is all fairly easy to change, however. The other hurdle was the reprogramming of the electronics, including the ECU, which is necessary to make the car work at all. You will need an expert here who has access to the necessary computer equipment and software, as well as the codes for your car.
“Many of the main electronics components and control units are set with so-called IPAS codes, for example the immobiliser, keys and ECU. It is a smart security feature so that someone with bad intentions could not just bring a replacement control unit and some keys, swap them out and drive off with your car. The ECUS for manual and Tiptronic cars are actually the same part number, just loaded with a different software. Replacing the ECU with one from a manual car is not an option, however, as the car would recognise the exchanged part and won’t start. Here you will need help from your Porsche dealer to do the programming for you.
“Thanks to my fantastic mechanic Ah Fai I managed to get everything done. After several technical checks and detailed inspections the car was finally approved by the local authorities, and the documentation changed accordingly. So the car is now officially a 997.1 C4S manual Coupe, as per the log card. It’s the first official one, at least in this country.” Never mind in Singapore, Plogmann’s work – bordering on the outrageous – means it’s the first such conversion on a 997.1 we’ve heard of, due to the costs of the conversion against the relatively cheap cost of the cars in general. However, as our charismatic German said, the financial environment in Singapore means such a conversion is fiscally possible.
In fact, Plogmann’s hard work has gained the plaudits of specialist technicians in the industry too, including Total 911’s own resident ‘Ask the Expert’ and Gold-certified Porsche technician, Scott Gardner. “It’s not something I’ve ever heard of before and
I’ve never seen a car with such a conversion done,” Scott says, looking at the pictures of the conversion. “However, I can understand why he’s chosen to modify his car in this way; a 997, for me, has to be a manual. Other than the high cost of doing such a conversion and being very labour intensive, in my mind it would be fairly straight forward – for example, regarding the Engine’s ECU, a reprogram would be all that is required, as well as modifying the coding in some of the other modules.
“I can imagine installing the clutch pedal as well as the clutch line to the slave cylinder would be a bit fiddly. It’s certainly not a recommendation I would be making to go and convert your Tiptronic to a manual, but it just goes to show there are various options out there. Huge credit to Mr Plogmann for seeing it through.”
Mr Plogmann himself is clearly just happy to own the car he’s desired all along. “I am thankful to everyone who helped on the way. I didn’t know what I was getting into and I think many people thought I was crazy, but it was worth it. I can now fully enjoy my 997 manual during spirited drives up north to Malaysia, with fantastic B-roads through palm oil plantations or rain forests or, once in a while, on the Sepang track. Next to my
1994 993 Carrera, which is manual of course, this is the ideal modern car for me,” he says. Happy peddling, sir.